Business Tips

Ramblings of a Former 9-to-5er: Ep. 2 – Killer Question to ask the Interviewer


Have you any questions for us? How many times have you heard that? You recognise it? It’s that standard finishing the interview scenario. The balance of power shifts somewhat and now you are asking questions of the interviewer. It’s invigorating right, that relief and sudden gain of control somewhat? I always liked this part of the interview. Instantly I’d feel my body relax and then I’d hit them with one of my favourites, the killer question, as I like to call it.

Before I reveal what the question actually is, I have to admit that every time I asked it, I felt “right”. An interview can often feel like you’re falling or spinning out of control should it be going wrong, but this question nine times out of ten made the whole event a little easier to take. Even if I was convinced that the position was not to be during the actual process I took some solace in the fact that soon, it would be my turn and in some cases it even helped my mid interview performance thinking of that.  

Quite often I’d be applying for a position because I had to, or I needed the money or whatever reason, not necessarily because I was drawn to the position or the company as a whole. I’d weigh my options during the interview process, a delicate balance between trying to concentrate on what was being asked, formulating a suitable answer in my mind and scrutinising the interview panel. Sometimes I’d feel like the interview was coming to a natural conclusion and so my mind would drift to whether or not I was going to pounce on them with the old reliable and invariably I did, if the interview had gone a certain way.

The decision on whether or not I was going to ask this particular question usually came down to one crucial factor. How did the interviewer or interviewers more often, make me feel during the whole process? Let’s not forget that this is a two-way street here. Sure, they have given you an opportunity to talk to them about a possible position, I get that and anyone who gets such an opportunity should truly be greatful. However, let’s not forget, you have put time into preparation. You’ve made an effort in appearance. You’ve researched the business, located them on the map and marked your route so as not to get caught late. You’ve risen early after a restless nights sleep. You’ve worried your significant other, friend or family member about the whole thing for days. You’ve put fuel into the car. You have put an awful lot into that one interview, haven’t you? It is for that reason that I have very little if any empathy for an interviewing panel at the end of it if they fail to make me feel at ease, or even want me there in front of them during it.

These are basic skills that every interviewer should possess but sadly quite often, do not, sometimes in any shape or form. Too often an interviewer is in a position of management or is a member of the particular team you are interviewing for and it is quite clear within a couple of minutes that they are not natural interviewers and/or do not want to be there. How many times have you interviewed for a position that you were truly excited about only to be met with awkward silences or side glances from the interviewing panel to one another because perhaps you answered a question incorrectly, didn’t give enough of an answer or you failed to know some ludicrous work practice or standard that was specific to this company alone? I’d catch that strange side glance and feel utterly dejected, hollow and useless.

As well and on more than one occasion I was met with some very snide, sarcastic remarks from an interviewer after failing to give them the answer they were looking for. Should I have known the answer? Maybe, depends on so many things, doesn’t it? Should they have retorted with such unpleasant and derisory responses? I think not. Such responses were spurted out to massage their egos and concrete their position of power over the visiting interviewee in question. Not good enough.

In essence, interviews are difficult things. We all know that. So, interviewers please, for the love of God, learn the art of interviewing. They say that for an interviewee the interview starts the moment you arrive in the carpark. If that is the case, then it should be equally so for the interviewer. Don’t bring your home life baggage to the interview room. Don’t pin imaginary pictures of your immediate boss onto the face of the poor soul sitting on the opposite side of the desk. After all, they are just looking for a chance, just like you were at one time. Life is strange and has a funny way of pulling the carpet from underneath you. Be warned. You never know, the person you interview today could be the one interviewing you in the future.

So, there I’ve given you a slice of my own personal interviewing history. Am I a fan of interviews? No, not particularly, but I understand that they are a necessary evil that will more than likely remain part of the hiring process, possibly forever. Please don’t go away from this piece thinking that I am some form of twisted creature hell-bent on revenge against the minority that wronged me in the interview room. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am simply trying to offer another small piece of armour to protect you in the war room. I am not bitter or spiteful. I’ve had my fair share of bad interviews its true, but I have also had a hell of a lot of good ones that have won me amazing positions in very big companies and sometimes this was even after I had decided to deploy the secret weapon. So, what is this secret weapon I hear you ask? Well if you’ll allow me to indulge in a little sceanario…    

‘So, do you have any questions for us’, they ask with a sigh, they, already closing their notebooks and looking at their watches.

‘I do actually’, well just one, I reply.

‘Ok’, the thoughts of the “Sub of the day” lunch option very much in their mind.

‘What is it about your particular job that gets you out of bed in the morning?’ I ask.

There is silence for a moment, a shuffling of sitting position, clearing of throats and an awkward side-glance.

You spot this glance too and you smile, satisfied.